Content of the material
- Easiest Way to Clean a Deer Skull: Part 1
- Boil & Pressure Wash the Skull
- Bury the Skull
- Boiling vs. Simmering:
- How To Bleach A Deer Skull: Giving Your Trophy A Shine
- How To Whiten Deer Skull
- 2. Prepare The Materials
- 3. The Degreasing Process
- Place in hydrogen peroxide
- How To Clean A Skull Details
- Step 1: Aquire Your Skull
- 4. Boil The Skull
- How To Clean A Deer Skull: Skinning The Head
- Step 3: De-Fleshing With Boiling or Soaking
- Who can partner with Howtolinks to solve How To Clean A Skull?
Easiest Way to Clean a Deer Skull: Part 1
The European Mounts are gaining popularity. They take up less space hanging on the wall than a shoulder mount, and they save you money.
A taxidermist will charge several hundred dollars to a thousand dollars for a shoulder mount! And he will charge an average of $100 for a European Mount. Let’s explore some “Do-It-Yourself” options.
You can boil and/or pressure wash the flesh and brains off of the skull. You can bury the skull. Or you soak the skull in warm water for about a month (Maceration).
Boil & Pressure Wash the Skull
This process involves boiling the deer head.
If your’e pressed for time, and want to spend an entire day cleaning your skull then boiling the skull and pressure washing the skull is an option.
Cons: It’s very aggressive and this can result in broken bones. Can also cause discoloration. Very Labor Intensive.
The nose bones especially are very fragile, and you will need to be very careful that you don’t blast through all the bones with the pressure washer. Also the fat is more difficult to remove when the skull is boiled. If you leave fat on the skull then this can cause your skull to turn yellow or pink. This discoloration is sometimes called “corpse wax”.
Bury the Skull
Cons: Smelly, the neighbors dog may steal the skull, and takes several months.
Burying the skull can be anything from simply burying the skull in your backyard, or placing the skull on top of an ant mound. If you go with this method then it’s advisable to place a bucket or basket on the ground above the burial site. The bucket or basket will keep animals from stealing your skull.
Pros: Easy. Gentle on the skull and bones. Results in a very professional Euro Mount.
Cons: It can get smelly if you don’t change the water out every 2-3 days. Process takes about 3 weeks (That’s not much of a con).
Maceration is the process of placing the skull into a bucket of warm water and allowing the bacteria to decompose or digest the flesh off the skull.
This is the easiest and most gentle process to clean a deer skull. And the results are amazing!
I highly recommend using the Maceration Process if you’re thinking about cleaning the deer skull yourself.
I will give instructions on how to clean a deer skull using the Maceration Process in Part 2.
Boiling vs. Simmering:
Simmering is distinctly different from boiling. Never boil a skull – the extreme heat will dry out the bone, crack the teeth, and eventually "melt" away the sutures that keep the skull itself together. Boiling is a technique that many hunters use, but it can actually do more damage than good. In contrast, simmering a skull in water that is just over the threshold of being comfortable to our touch (but not boiling) is where the tissues of the skull will cook, shrivel, loosen, and slough off, leaving the bone unmarred. We are aiming for an approximate temperature of 170° F. It is unnecessary to bring the water to a boil when the same effect can be achieved at much lower temperatures.
How To Bleach A Deer Skull: Giving Your Trophy A Shine
After carefully following the boiling deer skull guide, you should be ready for this step. One thing to note, however, is that if the skull is for record purposes, boiling may shrink it. You should hire a professional to create the mount or look into other ways of how to clean a deer skull without boiling.
Image Credit : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5mjV3K5r_U
I suggest maceration or using taxidermist beetles. There is no boiling and damage to skull size is zero to minimal.
How To Whiten Deer Skull
The process of whiten deer skull involves bathing the skull in hydrogen peroxide until the desired level of whiteness is achieved. The skull should also be totally dry. Dry it in the shade before the peroxide bath. Shade-drying keeps the skull from cracking.
Be careful to keep the antlers off the peroxide. Over-exposure also damages the bone quality and makes the skull brittle. Remember this while following our how to whiten a deer skull guide.
N.B: Even though I have used bleaching and whitening deer skull techniques interchangeably, But the two are very different. NEVER use bleaching agents on the skull. They will damage the skull and overall mount quality.
Quick How To Bleach A Deer Skull Tip:
No matter the type of animal, how to bleach a skull is a chemical-intensive process. Use protective wear. Also be careful not to overdo it. This step of how to clean a deer skull determines the final look. Try to keep the look as natural as possible.
2. Prepare The Materials
In dermestid beetle skull cleaning, the animal head is placed in a space where the insects thrive. In many cases, a colony of dermestid beetles needs a day or two to entirely consume the flesh and hide of an average-sized head. If you already have your beetle population, you may need the following for this cleaning process:
- Stainless steel trays
- Storage bin
- Thermoplastic resin sealant
As mentioned, maceration can be done in several different ways, but these are the essential materials you’ll need if you decide to go that route:
- Hydrogen peroxide
- A barrel or bucket
- Detergent solution
3. The Degreasing Process
Degreasing, soaking, final maceration, call it what you will, but the main idea here is to place the skull in a bath of water mixed with Biz (or Dawn dish soap) solution for a few days to a few weeks so as to get rid of any remaining flesh and to try to coax any leftover residue out of the bone itself. There will undoubtedly be some pesky bits of flesh still clinging to your skull's hard-to-reach places after the Simmering Process – bits that hot water alone simply cannot get rid of. In addition to this, greases trapped within the bone itself can leave unsightly yellow smears on the bone surface, persisting even after whitening solution has been applied. This does not make for a pretty looking skull, and it's the reason this degreasing step was invented.
Many taxidermists may go about this process differently. Some place aquarium heaters in the water to keep it at a roughly 70-90° F while it degreases, some will place under tank reptile heaters under a metal pot filled with water to keep the water just above room temperature, some will simply leave the skull in the water at room temperature for months. Some may even forgo this process entirely, but in my experiences this step is crucial in removing the last particles of greasy flesh. You can use the same pot you used to simmer the skull in for this process.
- Fill the pot with enough warm water to cover your skull completely, and then add Biz to it, mixing thoroughly so that there is very little to no powder sediment on the bottom of the pot. The idea is that you want the soap to dissolve evenly in the water so that the skull will be soaking in a well concentrated mixture. I generally add 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of Biz per 1 gallon of warm water, but this is not an exact science. The water should simply feel slimy.
- Gently place the skull parts (you will either have 3 parts – the cranium and left and right mandible – or two parts – the cranium and fused mandibles) into the pot with teeth facing upward. This will help prevent teeth from slipping out in the soak and you losing them in the murky water. If you are using a water heater, make sure that the heater is not in direct contact with any bone, as it could burn them.
- Let the skull sit! You may notice an oily film developing on the water surface over time, this is the grease being lifted from the skull. Depending on the skull size and the species, the degreasing process can take anywhere from a day to over a week. For example, pigs are notorious for being difficult to degrease, and will require more time than a coyote.
- For very greasy specimens, it is recommended to replace the soap water mixture every other day to prevent any extracted grease from saturating the bone and therefore to prevent the bone from retaining a horrendous smell! Keep your water clean, warm, and above all, soapy!
Any teeth or small bones that fell out during the Simmering Process should remain in the compartment boxes you placed them in. Do not worry about degreasing those items, as they generally do not need it. However, you will include them in the next step.
Place in hydrogen peroxide
Place the cooled skull in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide. Use 5–10% hydrogen peroxide. Remember to use gloves and protective goggles. Leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide until it has reached the desired whiteness. For a deer skull, this usually takes 24 hours. Be careful not to leave the skull in the hydrogen peroxide for too long.
How To Clean A Skull Details
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Step 1: Aquire Your Skull
Of course you will first need to find a nice skull for this project. I highly recommend finding a predator skull; I find they are more interesting because of the sharp teeth. There are several places where you can find skulls. 1. Check your local taxidermist. Many times they will have small animal skulls in the freezer, such as coyote, beaver, fox, raccoon, bobcat ect. depending on where you live. They may charge you a few bucks for one, or they may even just give you a skull or two at no charge. 2. You can occasionally find raw skulls on eBay. This has the potential to get a little pricey and possibly a bit smelly, because the skull will have to be shipped to you. When searching for a specimen on eBay, type in “taxidermy skull” and search in “all categories”. 3. Road kill. Use this as a last resort, as the skull will most likely be rotten and very possibly damaged.
4. Boil The Skull
This step only applies to the maceration method, though there are types of maceration that go directly to soaking. Boiling is important because it helps get rid of bacteria and grease. However, you should take care not to boil the skull too long, as it could cause the skull to break apart easily.
In addition, placing the skull in hot water for too long may result in bone shrinkage, and you might end up with a smaller skull than you were hoping for. For best results, you should be sure to conduct thorough research on skulls that may need boiling and the best duration for it. After boiling, you can proceed to remove any leftover flesh, as it may have been loosened in the process.
How To Clean A Deer Skull: Skinning The Head
Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTx9SVLcsXE
Skinning the head is a whole different task if you are looking to create neck or shoulder mounts. That will be handled in another article. This ‘how to clean deer skull’ guide is specific for European mounts, especially this skinning part.
Using a very sharp knife like best camping knife to remove all the skin, eyes, and as much flesh as you can. You do not have to remove everything clean off the bone. That will be handled in the next step. Strip the skull of flesh until the skull bone is almost visible.
N.B: An attempt to remove all meat with a knife can damage the skull by scratching it. It may be faster but will lower the overall quality of your final mount.
Quick Skinning Tip:
Deer head is easiest to skin just after a hunt. If you are to process it later, skin it before freezing. If that much time is not available, freeze it immediately after a hunt.
Step 3: De-Fleshing With Boiling or Soaking
2. Boiling your skull. You should do this outside as it WILL make your house stink. Most outdoor grills these days have a stove burner, which works perfect. I have a freestanding propane burner (purchased from Wal-Mart) that work GREAT because I can move it away from the house. You will want to designate a pot specifically for cleaning skulls; you can buy a used pot at almost any local thrift store. a. Start your water boiling. Reduce it to a low simmer and place your skull in. Cover with a lid if possible. b. Check your skull as often as possible, about every 10-15 minutes. If you boil it for too long or at too high a temp, the bone may begin to separate along the joints. Once the flesh is soft and easily falls away from the bone, grab a pair of tongs and remove the skull from the pot. Allow it to cool slightly, but not all the way. Make sure you collect any teeth that may have fallen out from the bottom of the pot; you can glue these back in later. c. Remove the remaining flesh by hand, either with gloves or without (I stopped using gloves because they get in the way too much). To remove what is left of the brain, use a bottle brush under running water; push the brush up into the skull cavity and basically brush & clean just as you would a bottle or tall glass. Keep rinsing, scraping & peeling until 90% of all the flesh is removed. 3. Soaking the flesh off of your skull. This takes a long time and STINKS but it has good results. Simply fill a Rubbermaid tub with water and place your skull in. It is best if the tub is placed in a warm shed, far from your house and from your neighbors house. Change the water every four to seven days as needed. The flesh will rot right off of the bone in the water. Some teeth may fall out but they can be glued in later. Time varies based on water temp and skull size, but expect this to last at least a month. Once you can see that all the flesh is gone, rinse under running water to remove small particles, and allow the skull to dry. I recently cleaned a deer skull in this fashion, and it can out with virtually no damage to the bone.
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